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Arts of the UK 2020: The Understudy at the Palace Theatre

Screenshot 2020-11-07 at 10.25.50 AM

LONDON – A cast of 14, including Stephen Fry and James Norton, will celebrate the re-opening of the West End in an exclusive semi-staged rehearsed reading of The Understudy which was presented as an animated online play in May to raise funds for the theatre industry. The play will once again be raising much needed funds for the UK’s theatre industry, and proceeds from the play will be split between Acting For Others, the Equity Charitable Trust and The Theatre Development Trust, run by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

The stellar line-up of actors currently confirmed to perform in The Understudy includes Stephen Fry, James Norton, Mina Anwar, Natalie Casey, Matthew Horne, Emily Atack, Adelayo Adedayo, Lucy Briggs-Owen,  and Jake Ferretti and more. Having previously recorded their lines in isolation, this will be the first time the actors will be performing together in the flesh as they swap their makeshift recording studios at home for the real life stage, which has been prohibited since March. Directed by Giles Croftthis is a stage adaptation written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and will be accompanied by Dusthouse’s  animation from the play’s online adaptation.

Based on the novel by the best-selling author David Nicholls, The Understudy tells the story of an underdog. Actor Stephen McQueen has just landed a dream West End role. Well, that’s not quite true – he’s going to be is understudying film star (and 12th Sexiest Man in the World) Josh Harper in the brand-new show ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’, but still…Whilst he’s waiting for his time to shine, he reflects on his career – one that has spanned everything from (non-speaking) Rent Boy 3 in ‘The Bill’ to his recent starring role as Sammy in the (low-budget) regional tour of ‘Sammy The Squirrel’s Seriously Silly Safari’.With this new job Stephen’s stage career may be destined for the dizzying heights, but not everything is going quite as well. Stephen’s wife left him two years ago, wondering if he’d ever grow up; his daughter wonders when he’ll get an actual job; worst of all, he’s starting to fall for the leading man’s wife.

Giles Croft, Director of The Understudy, comments: “Over the past seven months I have watched as theatres, theatre companies and artists have struggled to manage the impact of COVID-19. I have been impressed by their resilience and ingenuity and saddened by the heartache and the loss. Having been through the ‘Zoom revolution’ we are now entering, tentatively, the era of the socially distanced audience and bubbled actors, which I have no doubt will lead to great creativity and inventiveness, but things will not be the same as they were. Success will depend as much on creating confidence that theatres (permanent or pop up) are safe places to spend time, as much as on the work produced. Having experienced my first visit to a socially-distanced show last week, I am confident that it will happen and very excited that this excellent project, born out of lockdown, is going to play a part in bringing live theatre back to UK stages.”

Nimax Chief Executive Nica Burns, comments: “There couldn’t be a better way of reopening the Palace Theatre following our second national lockdown:  Stephen Fry leading a fantastic cast in two charity performances of THE UNDERSTUDY.   The theatre community continues to stand together using their talents entertaining eager audiences in support of our performers and freelancers.  Standing centrestage is the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield which continues like many regional theatres, to be at the heart of its local community while providing them with wonderful entertainment.”

The Understudy runs from 7th to 8th December 2020 at the Palace Theatre London. Tickets available here

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